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SDEROT - CEASEFIRE (IN BETWEEN ROCKETS)

Sderot is a small town in the south of Israel. Sderot has 20,000 men, women, children and lots of babies, and it has been turned into firing range by the Palestinian terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. The 20,000 inhabitants of Sderot live on a day-to-day basis under the threat of these rockets, dozens of which have landed in and around this small town since a "ceasefire" was proclaimed between Israel and the Palestinians one month ago. Only this week, two 15-year-olds were critically injured by one of these rockets.

It should be pointed out that Israel evacuated itself from the Gaza Strip. Not one soldier or settler remains in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas government - which refuses to recognize Israelís existence in any shape or form - wants to have its cake and also to eat it. On the one hand they proclaim a ceasefire, which enables arms and ammunition to flow freely into the area; on the other hand, they send their representatives, under the guise of oddly-named activist groups, to fire rockets into Israel.

In the internal war that is being waged among the Palestinians, between Hamas and the PLO, Israel finds itself in the awkward position - where an Israeli military response to the firing of rockets will detract from the political status of the PLO and Abu Mazen among the Palestinians. Another aspect of this awkward situation is the decision of the Israeli government to release Palestinian prisoners as a gesture of goodwill for the Eid-ul-Adha (the "Feast of Sacrifice") Muslim festival. Gilíad Shalit, the 19-year-old Israeli soldier who was kidnapped in Gaza by Palestinian terrorists six months ago, is still being held hostage - and no sign of life has been received from him. It seems like the Geneva Conventions vanished in Gaza together with this young Israeli serviceman.

The absurd part about all this is that many people in the world regard Israel as an arrogant conqueror with an aggressive army, whose sole desire is to make life difficult for the Palestinian civilians. Yet, when the Hezbollah fired over 4,000 rockets on Israeli towns and villages from Lebanon last summer, Israel did not respond in like manner. When the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip turn Sderot and its 20,000 inhabitants into their own private firing range, Israel holds back and restrains itself. Perhaps Israel might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. Perhaps itís time for Israel to live up to its image as portrayed in most of the world media. Perhaps Israel should retaliate for the firing on civilian targets inside Israel by destroying civilian targets in the areas from which the rockets were fired in Gaza - or Lebanon (as most other sane nations of the world would). Perhaps, in this way, Israel could reduce the number of rockets being fired on its towns. It could also save a considerable amount of money, now being expended on futile attempts to change the hostile and virtually automatic anti-Israel stance of the world media.

Udi